Source: Global Times Published: 2017-3-27
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang`s official visit to New Zealand will bring new momentum to the Asia-Pacific region in the midst of rising anti-globalization sentiment and protectionism, experts said.
2017 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of China-New Zealand relations. Li, who arrived in Wellington on Sunday, is the first Chinese premier to visit the country in 11 years, and this trip is widely expected to further strengthen bilateral ties, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
New Zealand knows globalization cannot move forward without China, Chu Yin, an associate professor at the University of International Relations, told the Global Times. He added that New Zealand is the first Western country to have abandoned ideological bias over China`s rise.
During his four-day visit, Li will hold talks with his New Zealand counterpart Bill English, and meet Governor-General Patsy Reddy and other officials. He will also visit Auckland, New Zealand`s largest city, for business discussions and cultural exchange activities, Xinhua reported.
English expressed hopes for closer ties and cooperation between the two countries. "The visit is an important opportunity to set the agenda for the next stage of our strong relationship, and demonstrates our shared commitment to open trade and economic growth," English said in a statement.
"New Zealand and Australia are both developed countries that heavily rely on the sea trade. With the withdrawal of US support for free trade, the two countries have high expectations of China. The China-initiated 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a great opportunity for them," Wang Yiwei, a professor at Renmin University`s Department of International Studies, told the Global Times.
The two sides will expand cooperation in such areas as infrastructure, agriculture and animal husbandry, technological innovation, education, culture, tourism and civil aviation, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told a press briefing in Beijing last week.
The visit shows that China and New Zealand are committed to liberalizing trade and investment as well as regional peace and stability, Zheng said.
Trade between China and New Zealand has increased nearly threefold compared to 2008, when the two countries reached a free trade agreement. The first round of negotiations on upgrading the deal will be held in the first half of this year, Xinhua reported.
The upgrade will create more opportunities for economic cooperation, and push the two sides to increase market openness and reach a consensus on such areas as services, trade and e-commerce, Zheng said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English on Friday announced a renewed push to promote free trade in his first major trade policy announcement since taking over as leader last December, Reuters reported.
New Zealand`s $180 billion economy depends on exports, and the country lobbied hard in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. It wants to push for an expansion of a free-trade agreement with China at a meeting with Li on Monday.
English said on Friday his center right government wants free-trade agreements to cover 90 percent of goods exported by 2030, up from just over half currently.
"China has been the biggest source of overseas students to New Zealand in more than a decade, and China is always a major source of foreign tourists to New Zealand, which is expected to surpass Australia in 2020 to become the biggest source," Chu said.
Unlike some Western countries, which enjoy economic ties with China but remain suspicious and reluctant about cultural exchanges with the country, New Zealand welcomes Chinese culture, Chu added.
"While some Western countries are wary of Confucius Institutes, this small country has already established three Confucius Institutes and offers Chinese language courses in more than 300 middle and primary schools. China will surely return the favor to this friendly and trustworthy gesture in various ways," Chu said.
Wang Yiwei is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.